Pakistan has a vigorous and vibrant media landscape by all accounts, thanks largely to reforms that liberalised the electronic media in 2002.
Some of the prominent features include considerable focus on politics and political commentary from the print and TV news media. However, with the growing commercialisation of the media, any clear or permanent political linkages or slants have largely subsided and short-term leanings and sympathies seems to have emerged.
Even in the absence of direct ownership or connections with political entities, support of some media organisations with certain political parties can sometimes be noticed. The reasons for that might not always be ideological. In fact, economic and other considerations might well be involved at times.
Furthermore, in less than two decades, television has firmly established itself as the go-to medium for consumers seeking news and information. This further underlines the need for the medium to cautiously and responsibly use the extensive power at its disposal to shape public opinion.
With the privatisation of radio operations, radio has made a comeback as a popular medium in urban areas. However, with only state-run radio networks generally permitted to broadcast their own news, private operators can only cater to the entertainment needs of the listeners. Audience measurement mechanisms are leading to more informed advertisement, programme and marketing decisions. There is a gradual but definite shift of advertisement revenues from one medium to another.
The country’s media has undoubtedly played a role in empowering the citizens and magnifying their voices by articulating public demands. However, standards of journalism in the country, which are often described as uneven, also provide the context for somewhat biased, sensational and outright inaccurate coverage of news stories, at times with regard to political parties or developments. This can and does have serious impact on polarisation of views.
There are those who argue that Pakistan’s media landscape appears to have suffered from too-rapid a growth, with the result that training of media practitioners and professional standards have lagged behind the required levels. Improvement of the overall quality of journalism perhaps represents the most immediate challenge for the Pakistani media.